SPS recognizes 2015 recipients of Presidential Awards of Excellence

Melissa Burlingame
Melissa Burlingame

Four members of the Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) have been chosen to receive the university’s 2015 SPS Presidential Awards for Excellence.

The recipients are Pat Anderson, director of Alumni Relations; Ben Bingle, specialist/outreach coordinator of the Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development (NGOLD); Betsy Hull, assistant to the dean in the College of Education; and Jennifer Kirker-Priest, director of the Anthropology Museum.

The four recipients will be honored during the annual SPS Awards ceremony and reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center. Each recipient will receive a plaque and $1,500 in appreciation for their outstanding contributions to NIU.

In addition, Melissa Burlingame is the 2015 recipient of the SPS Outstanding Service Award.

The recipients of the five SPS Staff Awards also will be recognized during the awards ceremony.

  • Laura Sala is the recipient of the SPS Award for Advocacy, which honors an employee who has demonstrated advocacy for policies and practices that create a positive living-and-learning environment for students, faculty and/or staff.
  • Deborah Pierce is the recipient of the SPS Award for Cultural Competency, which honors an employee who has demonstrated leadership in helping to create a more culturally competent and diverse community at NIU.
  • Marilyn Bellert is the recipient of the SPS Award for Excellence in Supervision, which honors an employee who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and ethical practices when supervising professional and student staff.
  • Roger Maas is the recipient of the SPS Award for Institutional Advancement, which honors as employee who has demonstrated leadership in activities, programs and/or research that has helped to advance his or her department and the university.
  • The NIU Annuitants Association is the recipient of the SPS Award for Partnership and Collaboration, which honors an employee or group that has demonstrated a willingness to partner, cooperate and collaborate for the betterment of the NIU community.

The reception and awards ceremony are open to all.

Pat Anderson
Pat Anderson

Patricia Anderson
Director, Office of Alumni Relations

In many ways, Pat Anderson is a champion of NIU.

On any given day, the director of NIU Alumni Relations is in communication with a considerable number of former NIU students and friends of the university.

Anderson joined NIU in 1991 as a library technical assistant, and began with the Office of Alumni Relations in 1998. The director since 2003, it’s a role she understands as a Huskie who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2000 and a master’s degree in 2004.

Her dedication to her alma mater, said NIU Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus William C. Johnson, specifically addresses a key element of the NIU mission: building community.

“She has applied her education at NIU where her talents emerged and her skills developed in outstanding service to this university and its outreach mission,” Johnson said. “She has become a champion for our university, adding to the university’s luster in significant ways, by building strong bonds between our current population and those who in the past were part of the NIU community.”

Known for her “unflagging efforts” to make NIU the premier public university in the Midwest, Anderson serves on the Supportive Professional Staff Council, University Scholarship Board and the Huskie Family Welcome committee.

She is also active in the community, volunteering as both a certified senior health insurance program counselor for the state of Illinois and an auxiliary member of Kish Health System’s Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where she assists in fundraising for patient care services and health care scholarships.

Ben Bingle
Ben Bingle

Ben Bingle
Outreach coordinator/instructor
Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development

Ben Bingle’s efforts as an outreach coordinator and instructor for the Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development (NGOLD) have been exemplary. It would not be exaggerating, said NGOLD Director Nancy Castle, to describe Bingle “as a legend among the Community Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) undergraduates.”

“This is a testament to the ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ characteristic that makes him deserving of this recognition,” Castle said. “Ben’s work has consistently been representative of the best that NIU has to offer.”

Bingle joined NIU in 2008 as a research associate in the Public Opinion Laboratory, and took on the specialist/outreach coordinator position in 2011. He currently excels in this role, while also working on his dissertation in the final stage of earning a Ph.D. in political science.

Colleagues praise his “student-centered” focus and his ability to create “a nurturing environment for student career success to thrive.” He promotes excellence and engagement in all areas, and leads by example.

“Ben is the epitome of ethically inspired leadership and he shows students, through his own actions, what it means to be engaged in a community – be it on or off campus,” Castle said.

Monmouth College’s Young Alumni of the Year is a published author, including a series of nine nonprofit case studies and peer reviewed journal articles, and has presented several studies at professional conferences.

“Ben has demonstrated his willingness to go above and beyond to serve students, be a positive ambassador of NIU programs out in the community and to be the change agent,” said Julia Spears, associate vice provost for engaged learning.

Betsy Hull
Betsy Hull

Betsy Hull
Assistant to the dean, College of Education

Betsy Hull wears many hats as the assistant to the dean in the College of Education.

And, by all accounts, she wears them well.

“Her work and accomplishments on campus clearly embody the three pillars – ethically inspired leadership, thriving communities and NIU financial and program viability – that are our president’s vision to make NIU an incredible place,” said Jeffrey Hecht, associate dean of the College of Education.

Hull earned her bachelor’s degree in accountancy from NIU in 1994 and is a certified public accountant. She joined NIU in 2003 as an assistant controller, and assumed her current position in 2011.

Colleagues laud her for her expansive knowledge of the university’s financial and accounting operations, along with her professionalism and willing attitude.

“She is often the go-to person for almost everyone in the College of Education,” said Cathy Kubasiak, office administrator in the college. “If she doesn’t know the answer to your question, she will work quickly to find the correct answer. She is always willing to step in and help when and wherever she is needed.”

It’s the additional roles she embraces, along with her own responsibilities, that others say demonstrate her “endless contributions to the university.”

Hull’s involvement extends beyond the NIU campus, where she takes on roles in the community and school district. She is currently the president of the Sycamore Education Foundation and served as a chairperson for the Sycamore United Methodist Church Endowment and Investment committee.

Jennifer Kirker Priest
Jennifer Kirker Priest

Jennifer Kirker Priest
Director, Anthropology Museum

Jennifer Kirker-Priest’s vision and energy have brought the Anthropology Museum to a whole new level.

“The Anthropology Museum reflects humanity’s past in order to envision our future,” said Kendall Thu, chairperson of the Department of Anthropology. “Jennifer’s work has brought this notion alive for NIU and the larger community in ways we never imagined when she first set foot on campus.”

Kirker-Priest joined NIU in 2012 as the Anthropology Museum director, and had the challenging task of moving the museum from its former location. Colleagues praise her for her “tireless efforts” on museum exhibit development and display and a constant focus on community and student engagement.

She has led summer archaeology camps for middle school students, developed a Student Advisory Board for the museum and provided internship opportunities for students at NIU and other museums. In a recent museum exhibit, “Curated by DeKalb: 50 years of the Anthropology Museum at NIU,” visitors have the opportunity to reflect on the past while celebrating the future as a student-centered museum.

Additionally, the director has raised the profile of the Anthropology Museum at NIU through conference presentations and professional development. In the last year alone, she chaired a session at the American Anthropological Association conference, was an organizer for the Midwest Mesoamerican Conference and presented at the Future of Ethnographic Museums Conference at Oxford University.

“Her energy is matched by her vision,” said Christopher McCord, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “She knows where she is taking the museum, and her efforts are thoughtfully focused on getting it there.”

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